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Friday, 17 April 2015 02:00

Plenary and Regional Sessions

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5 Plenary sessions and 3 Regional Sessions brought together diverse actors from the Global WOPs Alliance.

Plenary sessions

Plenary 1. Operators and Sustainable Urban Development

As the ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGs) are being presented for adoption in New York before the UN General Assembly, this panel will be discussing what these goals mean for water operators. The session will examine how the new development framework expands on the Millennium Development Goal Framework and what is expected to be different about its financing, implementation and monitoring. The discussion will focus in particular on the proposed dedicated water goal, developed through a long participatory process led by the UN Open Working Group, which is more comprehensive than the MDG targets for water. Whereas the MDGs addressed only water and sanitation access, the SDG water goal also sets objectives for wastewater and water quality, governance, water resources and water-related disaster. What is needed to make this more ambitious set of water goals translate into sustainable water management , and specifically, what water operators can contribute to its achievement, will be the subject of debate and discussion.

Plenary 2. New Roles for Operators in an Urban Era 

Since 2010, over half of the world’s population live in cities, and global urbanization continues at a steady clip, particularly in the small and mid-sized cities of the developing south. Urbanization is associated with higher levels of human development and offers opportunity for social, environmental as well as economic betterment. In some parts of the world, cities are making the most of the urban trend, using urban densities, dynamism, and metabolism to increase access to services, generate innovative local economies, and minimize waste. In others, urbanization is to the contrary impeding sustainable development and locking cities into urban forms and social modalities that are costly, polluting and inequitable.

This session will explore what is behind these trends and discuss what role operators have both in creating them and addressing them. It will look at how policy trends like decentralization and corporatization, environmental pushes like water scarcity and climate change, and social and economic frameworks like the human right to water and full cost recovery can help or hinder operators to navigate this urban world and make the most of their role as urban development actors.

Plenary 3. Sustainable Financing for Sustainable Operators

Given the importance of water operators to our sustainable development, ensuring they have the capacity to do their jobs fully should be a priority. Fortunately capacity development comes at a marginal cost when compared to the benefits it brings. Operators with strong capacity are better able to identify, plan, manage and maintain services, increasing impact and extending the duration of benefits. The small cost of supporting capacity development is a very good investment. And yet Capacity Development for operators is not happening at nearly the scale that is needed? What is setting it back? What needs to happen to burst this bottleneck and unleash support to these most essential actors?

The session will feature high level panelists discussing ways to bring financial support to operators’ capacity development at the scale that is needed. Examining the features of effective capacity development interventions on the one hand and current development financing trends on the other, panelists will discuss solutions that can help scale up the WOPs practice.

These sessions will be conducted in English, French and Spanish with simultaneous interpretation. 

Regional Sessions

WOPs in Africa (English / French Interpretation)

Despite large efforts mobilized to increase access to water and sanitation services, most Sub-Saharan African countries still show low covering level with an average 64% access for drinking water and 30% for sanitation (JMP, 2014). With the highest urbanization rate in the world, the role of water utilities is central to overcome these challenges. This regional session will showcase various WOP initiatives in Africa. It will show the result of the Performance Improvement Plans (PIP) developed and implemented through a set of WOPs. The session will also reflect and update the work conducted by the WOP-Africa platform and the regional financial support by donors. The panel will identify key lessons-learned to maximize WOPs' potential and strategies to move forward in the African context.

WOPs in Asia (English / Spanish Interpretation)

Asia is one of the fastest growing economies in the world today, but arguably the world’s most water-stressed continent. By 2025, almost all of Asia will face economic water scarcity. It will also be home to 60% of the world’s population in a few years, the majority of whom will live in towns and cities, and contribute to continued rapid economic expansion. By 2050, Asian towns and cities are expected to be home to 3.3. billion people. The pressures on scarce water resources will be immense, and efficiency will be the new paradigm. It is in this context that USAID through WaterLinks and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have facilitated over 70 WOPs across Asia and the Pacific since 2008. These WOPs have focused on efficiency enhancements in key operational areas of utilities including NRW reduction, septage/wastewater management, water quality management, asset management and more recently, climate change adaptation. The WOPs are designed to secure measurable efficiency gains in areas which can be scaled up. This helps maximize demonstration impact.

The session will showcase a variety of WOP experiences focusing on principal gains, pitfalls, and opportunities for an expanded program in the future. As a novel, peer-to-peer approach to improving operational efficiencies among water utilities, the session will provide a rare opportunity to both potential mentors and recipients to interact with those who have been engaged in twinning partnerships and see the positive impacts brought about by this unique cooperation.

WOPs in Latin America (English / Spanish Interpretation)

In Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region, water and sanitation operators show relatively high levels of coverage, both for drinking water (94%) and improved sanitation (82%). Despite those encouraging figures, water utilities still face many challenges in terms of water quality management, resource protection, waste water treatment, inequitable access, managerial and organizational practices, or integrity and financial stainability. This regional session will address the achievements and challenges of the Water Operators’ Partnerships practice in LAC.

The session will present regional and international WOPs, and the work of the WOP-LAC and the Cari-WOP platforms over the past years. Regional third parties, such as donors or national water associations, will also share their experiences and perspectives on the role of WOPs to improve the quality of water and sanitation services. The panel discussion will address the way forward for increasing the effectiveness of WOPs in support of water and sanitation utilities in the region.